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Archilochus

O heart, my heart, no public leaping when you win;
no solitude nor weeping when you fail to prove.
Rejoice at simple things; and be but vexed by sin
and evil slightly. Know the tides through which we move.

__________

Words by Archilochus, the celebrated Greek poet who wrote and lived in the seventh century BC.

I just came across these lines in Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, and though I’ve tried to track them down on the internet, am still yet to find their original source. Send me a message or post a comment if you happen to know.

The above bust is of Archilochus. It is a first or second century AD marble sculpture based on an original dating from the late third century BC.

The ivy crown adorning his head signifies he is a poet, while the berries symbolize the gifts of Dionysus. Art historians believe this to be Archilochus due to the similarities it shares with four other Roman copies as well as a silver coin from Paros, which shows the poet seated, holding a lyre. Though he began his adult life as a mercenary, Archilochus eventually became one of the most famous lyric poets of Antiquity. His poems, of which only fragments of remnants remain, principally concern love, war, and the revelries of the table.

Sometime this weekend I’ll post the context in which Cahill quotes this verse. It’s pretty unexpected. Pick up the book here if you can’t wait.

*Update: This morning, reader Ted Rey responded to my question and found the source of the above quote from Archilochus. Ted writes:

“It seems to be an alternate translation for Fragment 67, as translated by R. Lattimore

Heart, my heart, so battered with misfortune far beyond your strength,
up, and face the men who hate us. Bare your chest to the assault
of the enemy, and fight them off. Stand fast among the beamlike spears.
Give no ground; and if you beat them, do not brag in open show,
nor, if they beat you, run home and lie down on your bed and cry.
Keep some measure in the joy you take in luck, and the degree you
give way to sorrow. All our life is up-and-down like this.

The war motif has been bypassed. I like the more generalized message that emerges.

Another translation is:

Soul, my soul, don’t let them break you,
all these troubles. Never yield:
though their force is overwhelming,
up! attack them shield to shield…

Take the joy and bear the sorrow,
looking past your hopes and fears:
learn to recognize the measured
dance that orders all our years.

Archilochus: To His Soul : A Fragment, as translated from the Greek by Jon Corelis”

Thanks for that, Ted. Much appreciated.